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THE ONE WE HAVE TO WIN (WITH A BONUS POINT) #2
So the reigning Double European Champions are sitting in the last chance saloon. And someone else is choosing the drinks! I think it probable, rather than possible, that this weekend, Saracens will fail to qualify for the quarter finals of the European Cup for the first time since 2011. Their fate is no longer in their own hands.
Everyone knows the story of William Webb Ellis, a pupil at Rugby School who allegedly in 1823 “with a fine disregard for the rules of football as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and ran with it". Interesting because in fact in 1823 there were no rules as such! The first set of written Rules did not appear until 1845. Up until that time, such rules as there were, were agreed by the 2 teams before the game took place.
THE ONE WE HAVE TO WIN # 1
So this is it – the point of no return. Saracens defence of their European crown could end here. Every European game from now on is a cup tie. Every game has to be won. After 1 bad day at the office in the Barnet snow, Saracens have put themselves in a position where they cannot lose. To Ospreys. To Saints and hopefully to anyone else after that. As things stand in the pool Clermont are on top with 18, followed by Ospreys on 13 and Saracens on 11. 4 points is a must, 5 would be handy.
SARRIES STING A WASPS NEST
The recent runs of form by two sides confidently looking for top-four finishes was itself enough to suggest that this would be the tie of the weekend. Sarries’ heavy-duty pack would come up against one of the most exciting back divisions in European rugby. The Sarries’ side, re-building form, would test their recovery in a stadium where Wasps last lost – in a grown-up competition – in October last year.
First and foremost happy New Year to all Wasps, Saracens and all other teams and their fans as we go into 2018, may it be a prosperous and successful one!
SARRIES MAKE IT A HAPPY NEW YEAR
The final fixture of 2017 at Allianz Park saw Saracens welcome Worcester Warriors – with some trepidation I suspect as despite their lowly position, Warriors have been responsible for some of Sarries’ most ignominious defeats. Although Sarries won the reverse fixture at Sixways at the end of September, the 24-18 defeat in February is still a vivid memory!
Back on the horse, and Tigers suffer.
I could not travel to Welford Road, one of my annual favourite away games. Mother Christmas had other plans for my day. At least I did get to watch the game on TV, which sometimes gives a close-up perspective on the events surrounding the game itself.
Close at Clermont, but no coconut
A visit to Clermont Ferrand and Stade Marcel Michelin for an ASM home game should be an ambition of every rugby supporter. The Shed used to be the byword for enthusiastic, partisan support, and many other grounds would claim to have taken up where The Shed left off. However, this, my second visit to a Clermont home game, reminded me that the Yellow Army, as they proudly call themselves, are the most enthusiastic, partisan and hospitable rugby crowd of all. Let all other clubs just hope one day to have such a passionate 16th man on their side.
CLERMONT V SARRIES PART DEUX
So after traveling from the Isle of Wight to the Isle of 'White' on Sunday 10th December, the game was called off to adverse weather conditions and health and safety and it really was 'snow' laughing matter, which lead to a few 'slippery' decisions being made (ok walking on Thin Ice with these puns now) Allianz Park was literally covered in a blanket of untouched snow and it was a beautiful sight, after the game was called off their was no clear indication when the game would be replayed or whether it was being played behind closed doors or not, eventually the EPRC and Saracens came to a conclusion that the game was to be replayed on Monday 11th December to the frustrations of Clermont and there management, who claimed they were not included in any discussions and there was rumours they were even going to refuse to play, although according to Vincent Galliard (one of the heads of EPRC) they were informed. The game was open to the public and was to be played at 5.30pm (GMT time) at Allianz Park.
What a pantomime EPCR have put on casting Saracens as the Wicked Stepmother. Well at least it’s the right time of year! Will we? Won’t we? Will we? Won’t we? Closed doors? Open Doors? Closed Doors? Stable Doors? You get the idea. It has given Saracens-haters across Europe the chance to blame the Club for the Snow Dump (which wasn’t forecast that far south), ungritted roads (how dare Barnet council prioritise the A1 over Champions Way?), delayed flights at Luton Airport, the fall in the pound, the Ashes problems in Australia, world poverty etc etc. Rumours abound! “Sarries couldn’t contact EPRC yesterday.” “Sarries wanted to postpone the game until Billy was fit again.” “Sarries were scared of the Jaune et bleu effect”. “EPCR changed the rules for Sarries”. “Nobody consulted ASM”. Probably not a ha’pence of truth in any of them!